Hi friends. I am writing to admit what a garbage human I almost was today, and how realizing that has changed my entire outlook.
I want to preface by saying that I was blessed to be raised a VERY patriotic person. My father is a Gulf War Veteran who served in multiple branches of the military. Guessing by his conduct (IE: the decals on his truck, pins on his hats and the t-shirts that he proudly wears) he is most proud of/fond of his time serving with the Navy Seabees. He still, to this day, thanks EVERY SINGLE PERSON he comes across that is (or has been) in the military for their service. He proudly fought to protect the freedoms of many and I am so proud of all the characteristics he instilled in me because of it. My mother can not listen to the first three notes of any song about America without immediately welling up in tears. I can remember her pride and love for Independence Day dating back to my earliest memories as a child. Her pride in our country is second only to my grandfather, who can be the grumpiest man you have ever met and in the next breath be a sobbing puddle of tears while listening to the National Anthem. American pride is part of my heritage, so it shames me to admit what I am about to tell you.
Today, I almost exploited a Veteran Memorial for an Instagram post.
I am not proud, but let me explain.
This morning, I dressed Maddux and I in cutesy-matching red, white and blue clothing. I had a location in mind for what I knew would be the cutest Memorial Day picture. I knew there was a small little memorial in a town close by. It's on a quiet road (frankly, in the middle of nowhere) and I assumed the town would have flags out for the day. I wanted one of those tender photos of us matching the flags that you see everywhere on holidays such as this (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Veteran's Day). Don't get me wrong, I do not think people who dress like America and take pictures with flags to post on Instagram to share their love for our country and their gratitude are bad people. They are the opposite, truly. I love that they are proud of those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. I love that on days like today, people are less worried about pictures of their shoes & flowers, or their coffee or news about the Kardashians. They are focused on feeling united and thankful. It's a beautiful thing. What I am concerned about was my attitude.
I didn't want to visit this memorial on Memorial Day to remember those who served, I wanted to visit it (on a day dedicated to them) solely to get a cute picture. I am so embarrassed and ashamed. I tell you this so I can tell you what happened when I got there.
I pulled up, expecting to see nobody (once again, because it is so far off the beaten path). Instead, I saw many people. Couples and families walking around. I specifically noticed one woman who I assume was a grandmother, toting around about four or five little kids. They were looking at the photos of those who the memorial had been created for. She was pointing at them and talking to the kids. I suddenly thought to myself, "what if she is pointing at a picture of their mother? Their father or cousin or uncle or grandpa? Do these people KNOW one of the men or women on the picture wall? What if they are here to actually remember a beautiful soul they knew in life who is no longer here, because they wanted to make sure these kids had the beautiful freedom of enjoining the outdoors on a day like today?" I looked around and everyone and tried to be aware of why they were there. None of them were there for pictures. They were reading the information boards and looking at the photos on the wall.
I was reduced to tears. I was instantly ashamed of myself for thinking of this place only as somewhere to get a cute picture. I walked around and looked at the photos, read the signs, and felt the spirit of this beautiful memorial. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer for these people. A prayer of gratitude for their willingness to sacrifice and a prayer of comfort for their families. I was humbled and thankful. I snapped a few photos without my son and I in them. Photos to simply remember this beautiful place and these beautiful people, and then walked away.
I hope to keep this perspective going forward, and to never again be more concerned with myself than those around me. I am thankful I went there, even with the wrong intention, because I swear my heart grew three times it's size. Today is a beautiful day. May we always remember why we celebrate it.